Hoyer: Democrats ‘committed’ to Oct. 31 timeline for Biden’s agenda

Rep. Steny Hoyer
Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite

The second-ranking House Democrat said Tuesday that party leaders remain intent on passing both pieces of President Biden’s two-prong domestic agenda before the end of the month.

That timeline is an ambitious one, as Biden and other Democratic leaders have struggled to unite the feuding factions of their party behind a massive package of family benefits and climate provisions. Only when that legislation is finalized do House leaders intend to move on a separate $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which has already passed through the Senate. 

Yet despite the high hurdles, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said House Democrats remain confident they can get both bills passed before November. He noted that the authorization for federal highway funding expires on Halloween.

“On the Build Back [Better] agenda, we’re committed to meeting the deadline of Oct. 31,” Hoyer said during a press briefing. “We’re working very hard to have both of those bills ready to be passed by the House of Representatives before that date.” 

The comments arrive just hours before Biden is scheduled to huddle at the White House with a group of liberal lawmakers — senators and House members alike — followed by a second meeting with moderates.

The president was also scheduled to meet Tuesday with Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), two Democratic centrists who have opposed Biden’s plans for a $3.5 trillion social benefits package in favor of a much less spending. 

Given their slim majorities, Democrats can afford virtually no defections in either chamber. And given the pushback from the moderates, party leaders have conceded the need to trim the cost of Biden’s initial proposal. They have not yet arrived at an agreement on a top-line figure, however. And there is stark disagreement between the camps about how to cut costs. 

Progressives, led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), say they want to keep the broad scope of programs contained in the initial $3.5 trillion package, even if they’re funded for a shorter duration than the full 10-year window. 

Others, however, want to reduce the price tag by curtailing the number of initiatives, and focus more intently on a few of the party’s top priorities. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had endorsed that concept in a letter to Democrats earlier in the month. And Hoyer promoted that strategy on Tuesday.

“I continue to believe we ought to use the Build Back Better Act to do fewer things better. That, I think, is our principle responsibility,” he said. “Obviously, we have to create consensus, we have to create the votes to pass that bill. And in doing so I would urge all of us to focus on the most consequential of the items which were considering.” 

Hoyer suggested the focus be on programs benefiting children and low-income families, as well as efforts to combat climate change. 

With Congress also facing a looming deadline to raise the debt limit, Hoyer floated another ambitious timeline: the House, he said, would pass that measure “days before” Dec. 3, the day Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said extraordinary measures will no longer be enough to keep the country solvent.

Without Republican cooperation, however, it remains to be seen how Democrats will be able to move the debt limit increase through the evenly split Senate, where 60 votes are needed to defeat a filibuster. Republicans provided the votes to advance a temporary debt limit hike earlier this month but vowed not to do so again.

Hoyer, noting that Democrats had helped Republicans lift the debt limit under Trump, urged Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to provide a similar degree of cooperation.

“Even if they don’t vote for it — even if they don’t have the intellectual honesty and courage to vote for doing what they know must be done — why don’t they just get out of the way and let us do it?” Hoyer said. 

Tags Janet Yellen Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Pramila Jayapal Steny Hoyer

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